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New UK consumer ombudsman is good for customers but brands must improve, says ICS

12th Aug 2015
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The UK’s Ombudsman is launching a new service to help handle the rising levels of customer complaints in the product and service-related sectors it doesn’t currently cover.

The Consumer Ombudsman service has been set-up to predominantly deal with complains in the retail sector, alongside home maintenance, improvement or installation services, second-hand cars, car repairs and car servicing.

The Ombudsman Services already run schemes for the energy, financial and telecoms sectors, among others. However, the timing of the launch comes as new data from Ombudsman Services reveals over 66m complaints about products and services last year – equating to a complaint every 1.2 seconds.

"Our research shows that as a nation we're complaining more than ever before, but that frustratingly we don't always know where to go,” said Lewis Shand Smith, chief ombudsman at Ombudsman Services.

"As a result, we've opened our doors to complaints in any sector.

"This is good for consumers because it will provide swift, independent resolution to a problem without the risk of legal bills and drawn-out court proceedings.

"It's also good for business as having a proper redress system in place means they will build up consumers trust."

However, Jo Causon, CEO for the Institute of Customer Service (ICS) believes the Ombudsmen launch should not detract businesses in the sectors to be covered from continuing to try and improve their customer experiences, in a bid to curb the complaints in the first place.

“Too often [executive] boards are focused on short-term sales, rather than a consistent and sustained focus on the whole customer experience that will lead to loyalty, recommendation and repeat purchase,” Causon states.

“It means that in a climate of rising customer expectations, an organisation's ability to deal with complaints is under the spotlight, so anything that helps customers navigate their way through a problem is welcome.

“However, if we are to see complaints fall, it is imperative that UK plc focuses less on transactions and more on building relationships with their customers.  The longer we wait for this to happen, the more difficult it will be to implement.”

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